Mike Tyson: A Wrestling Influence

Back in March, we looked at Muhammad Ali‘s influence on the world of professional wrestling.  A near-thirty year love affair saw Muhammad Ali become inspired by Gorgeous George, main event WrestleMania and end up on the receiving end of a Gorilla Monsoon airplane spin.  It was announced this week that WWE Hall of Fame inductee (2012), “Iron” Mike Tyson, would be appearing at All Elite Wrestling‘s Double or Nothing II pay-per-view.  Tyson will be in attendance to award the TNT Championship to the winner of the tournament.  Much like fellow boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Tyson has endured a three-decade relationship with pro-wrestling.  Therefore, let us now embark on a trip down memory lane through the wrestling-Tyson connection.

Tyson in 1997

Mike Tyson in 1997

In 1997, Mike Tyson was justifiably carrying the “Baddest Man on the Planet” persona around.  Two years removed from a release from prison, which saw him win all but one fight, Tyson was feared by all.  A notorious hothead who could quite literally snap at the slightest of looks, he very much was the “Baddest Man on the Planet”.  On June 28, 1997, Tyson suffered his second successive defeat to Evander Holyfield.  In boxing, two successive defeats to the same fighter usually means you are done.  In pro-wrestling terms, the feud comes to an end.  Of course, this was no ordinary defeat.  Perhaps more famous than the fight itself was Tyson’s constant biting of Holyfield’s left ear, which led to “Iron” Mike’s disqualification.  All hell broke loose and Tyson was hit with a $3,000,000 fine and a permanent suspension from the ring.  The suspension would be overturned but the fine would add to the well-documented financial troubles of Tyson.  Tyson, with an excellent 45-3 fight record, would be done with boxing until January 1999.  Enter Vincent Kennedy McMahon.

Mike Tyson Signs with the World Wrestling Federation

Photo: WWE

Mike Tyson was in the crowd for Royal Rumble 1998.  A renowned childhood fan of professional wrestling, it wasn’t too big of a surprise to see Tyson enjoying the show.  When interviewed by Michael Cole after Stone Cold Steve Austin‘s victory in the Royal Rumble match, Tyson professed how big of a fan he is of the “Texas Rattlesnake”.  He referred to him as “the t**s”.  Tyson, like many people, was also a childhood fan of Muhammad Ali.  Even today, Tyson still speaks of how much of an idol “The Greatest” was to him.  Just like his hero, “Iron Mike” was about to be dragged into the world of professional wrestling.  His confessed love for Steve Austin was about to turn sour.

Appearing on RAW is WAR

As mentioned previously, Tyson was a loose cannon.  It is therefore shocking to some that Vince McMahon was willing to do business with him.  However, despite Tyson’s somewhat tarnished reputation, he was an absolute draw.  Already the most famous current boxer of the time, Holyfield II made him a mega star.  To again use a wrestling term, he had become the world’s number one heel.  So the next night on RAW is War, it is no surprise Tyson was greeted with a chorus of boos and chants of “Holyfield!” when he was called to the ring by Mr. McMahon.  Stone Cold Steve Austin would soon come to the ring, a brawl would ensue and the rest is history.  Many look to this brawl as the real turning point in the Monday Night Wars.  Prior to the Tyson/Austin feud, WCW Monday Nitro was on the infamous 84-week ratings run of dominance over the WWF.  It was the run which nearly drove Vince McMahon out of business.  Three years to the month after Tyson’s appearance at WrestleMania XIV, WCW would be out of business.

“When he pushed me, he pushed the s**t out of me.  Mike Tyson is strong as hell.  When he pushed me I will never forget all those hundred dollar bills flying out of his suit and all his handlers grabbing up those hundred dollar bills.” – Steve Austin (Steve Austin Show: Unleashed podcast)

WrestleMania 14

In the fallout of the now famous Austin/Tyson brawl, Tyson aligned with D-Generation X.  D-X and Tyson would antagonize Steve Austin for weeks in the build-up to WrestleMania XIV, where Austin was to face Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship.  Austin had been rightfully positioned as the figurehead of the company.  His anti-authority, anti-hero character had propelled him to the ultimate spotlight.  All he needed was mainstream exposure, which Tyson brought to him.  Even today, Austin admits that the feud with Tyson was a large part of the reason for Austin’s success as a babyface.  WrestleMania XIV was to be the true passing-of-the-torch moment.  From one Texan to another, HBK would pass the torch and the Steve Austin phenomenon was well-and-truly underway.  When the match looked as though Austin was about to be cheated out of his victory, Tyson intervened.  The special enforcer for the WrestleMania main event – just as Ali was years ago – Tyson intervened.

When Austin rightfully won the match, Shawn Michaels became infuriated with Tyson.  “Iron Mike” was clutching an “Austin 3:16” shirt as Michaels unloaded into him with a range of profanities.  Mr. WrestleMania would come to regret his words as Tyson socked him with one of his famous right hooks.  HBK dropped to the floor faster than you can say “showstopper”.  At Royal Rumble 1998 months earlier, Michaels had suffered the back injury (two herniated discs and a crushed disc in his lower back) which would force him to retire that same year.  Michaels’ selling of Tyson’s punch – landing heavily on his back – meant Michaels would miss the next four years.  In his absence and with the help of Tyson, Austin would become the undisputed, number one guy in professional wrestling.

Mike Tyson’s Wrestling Appearances Since

Mike Tyson has made pro-wrestling appearances since 1998, predominantly with the WWE.  He has returned as the Guest Host of RAW (remember that?) and rejoined D-X one last time.  Luckily for HBK, Tyson would not turn on them this time.  With no Austin around, Tyson opted to help D-X and instead knocked out Chris Jericho (who sold that punch like a champ).  In 2012, he was rightfully inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for his contribution to professional wrestling.  It was a celebrity induction which can’t be argued against (unlike Drew Carey) as Tyson is very much a large part of the reason there even remains a WWE.  In his induction speech, he revealed that as a childhood fan of Bruno Sammartino, he always wanted to be a pro-wrestler.  Arrests during his teen years would stop this and see him link up with trainer, Cus D’Amato.  Once again, the rest is history.

Appearing at AEW’s Double or Nothing

Photo: AEW

On this week’s episode of AEW Dynamite, it was revealed that “Iron Mike” will be at Double or Nothing II Lance Archer and Cody come face-to-face in the culmination of the TNT Championship Tournament which has been the centre-point of the lockdown shows recently.  Tyson will be on-hand to award the championship to the winner.  Mike Tyson is currently in the best shape he has been in this century.  He is training for a number of exhibition fights and rumors of Holyfield/Tyson III (they are friends now, so ears are safe) are rife in the world of pro-boxing.

Photo: Oprah

With Tyson being in such great shape, could we see Tyson get physical? Might we see another Jericho/Tyson confrontation? I hope not, for Jericho’s sake.  The only thing that we can be certain of is Mike Tyson has been an integral part of wrestling’s success in the past three decades.  What Tyson does at Double or Nothing II is anyone’s guess.  One thing is certain: someone is getting knocked out.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. WWE fan? You can check out all of your favorite matches – as well as Mike Tyson’s WrestleMania IV appearance – on the WWE Network.  AEW fan? Don’t forget to tune into Double or Nothing II on TNT on May 23 to catch “Iron Mike” and more.